This is the first novel by William Gerhardie, first published in 1922, and it was made famous by H. G. Wells, who described it as 'true, devastating - a wonderful book'.
Based on Gerhardie's own experiences as a member of the British Military Mission to Siberia shortly after the October Revolution, Futility paints a picture of contemporary Russian society which deserves comparison with the writing of Chekhov. At the centre of the story is Nicolai Vasilievich, who trails across Russia in the wake of the British Mission in the perpetual and unrealistic hope of seeing his fortunes improve, even though they steadily deteriorate. In counterpoint to Nicolai's comic progression, Gerhardie tells the story of his narrator's hopeless love for Nina, the second of Nicolai's three bewitching adolescent daughters.
'William Gerhardie is one of our immortals. He is our Gogol's Overcoat. We all came out of him.' Olivia Manning
'He is a comic writer of genius ... but his art is profoundly serious.' C. P. Snow
William Alexander Gerhardie was born in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1895. As a young man he went to London and, when the First World War broke out, joined the army. He was first sent to Russia and later travelled the world before beginning to write. Futility (1922), his first novel, was sponsored by Katherine Mansfield, and other notable works of his include The Polyglots (1925) and Of Mortal Love (1936). Gerhardie's writing was acclaimed as an influence on many of his peers, including Anthony Powell, H. G. Wells, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Olivia Manning. He died in London in 1977.